Eau Claire has a pothole problem

Have you noticed more potholes in the spring than other seasons? There’s a reason for that.


Bridget Maxwell

Giant pothole on 7th off of Water st.

Bridget Maxwell

If your car has been victim to the potholes in Eau Claire, you are not alone.

The problem is prevalent enough to warrant a Facebook page dedicated to the new craters that appear on the roads.

Potholes of Eau Claire,” created in 2013, with over 100 followers, posts photos and silly captions to warn the community of the latest car wrecking holes.

A post from “Potholes of Eau Claire” on their Facebook page.

UW-Eau Claire student Ellie Ulbricht is one of those followers.

She followed this page after running through a pothole she described as “a deep and surprising crater.” 

“There has been damage from swerving to avoid potholes and also hitting them,” Ulbricht said.  “If you were to look under my car you could see the damage these holes create, both directly and indirectly. In the winter because of the salt, it increases the rust on my car, and pothole damage can cause serious problems along the way.” 

Why does Eau Claire have so many potholes, especially during springtime?

Grant Ida, a sales representative at All Season Tire Pros, says the easiest explanation is by comparison. 

Imagine a tray full of water is put into the freezer; when removed, you’ll notice the water expanded. This is the same when water reaches the pavement, Ida said.

If it freezes, it will take up more space under the pavement, leaving it to expand, crack and bend, weakening the material. When the ice melts, the pavement contracts and leaves gaps in the surface under the ground, where the water can be trapped. If the water freezes and thaws continuously, the pavement will weaken and continue to crack.

The weak spots of the road debilitate as cars pass over it, leaving the material to be displaced from the weight, thus creating a pothole, Ida said 

The most common types of damage are loss of a hubcap, a damaged tire, a bent or broken wheel, wheels knocked out of alignment, damaged suspension components, bent steering parts and/or damaged shock absorbers, Ida said.

Ida mentions how Eau Claire roads are built on top of sawdust because of the 75-plus sawmills stationed here, making it an unsteady base for pavement. Meaning quick patches are a temporary fix and only act as a bandaid to the problem. 

“It has never been this bad though. We have seen more people coming in due to suspension problems or tire issues,” Ida said. 

A pothole in a parking lot in downtown Eau Claire. (Bridget Maxwell)

He recommends getting your alignment checked once a year, especially in the springtime to ensure it’s not rusting or worn out, which can make hitting potholes worse if not up to date. 

Eau Claire resident Lydia Bernard said there’s an especially gnarly pothole near Fifth Avenue and Hudson Street.

“This street is littered with all sizes of potholes, some can completely take out your car while others mess up your tires,” Bernard said. “It’s frustrating when my roommates and myself report these all the time and yet no one has come out to fill or fix the potholes.”

The city’s streets department did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Eau Claire’s potholes.

Maxwell can be reached at [email protected].